The formation of Finnish national cultural policies from the mid-19th century to the late 20th century can be roughly divided into three stages:
- the period of the Patron State, from the 1860s to the 1960s;
- the arrival of the Welfare State and the articulation of explicit cultural policy objectives from the late 1960s to the 1980s; and
- the move beyond the Welfare State in the late 1990s.
Historically, four forces have shaped these developments:
- the civic movements which, despite linguistic and ideological divisions, contributed to the development of Finnish culture;
- the ambitions of the newly formed state to strengthen Finnish cultural identity, by central government policies promoting the arts and supporting artists;
- the commitment of municipalities (the basic units of Finnish local self-government) to provide cultural services for their citizens, to promote their citizen’s interest in the arts, and encourage involvement in the amateur arts; and
- the growth of the national culture industries, which, to start with, were ready to foster the vitality of even less profitable genres in cultural production.
The foundations for Finnish national culture were laid and affirmed under the Russian Czarist regime (1809-1917) which, alongside the Senate of the autonomous Finnish Grand Duchy, was the patron of the evolving bilingual (Swedish and Finnish) artistic and cultural life. After independence, the new nation state took over the role of patron and continued to build a national identity and national unity. This identity was based on the cultural heritage stemming partly from the period of Russian rule, and partly from the period of earlier Swedish rule, which had lasted seven centuries. During the first four decades of independence, which saw a civil war and two wars with the Soviet Union, national unity and national identity became even more prioritised objectives of the state and, subsequently, also central principles in national cultural and arts policies. Other objectives, such as the promotion of creativity and enhancing participation and cultural democracy, started to gain ground in the 1960s and became integrated with other economic and social goals when the ideology of the social welfare state was more comprehensively adopted and implemented in the 1970s.
Public support for the arts and culture had expanded even before the advent of the social welfare state. The municipalities had gradually taken over the task of maintaining institutions of adult education and public libraries from the civic associations and the central government started to subsidise them on a regular basis. The role of the state in supporting these institutions was cemented by legislation in the 1920s. The joint financial responsibility of the state and the municipalities became one of the pillars of modern Finnish cultural policy.
The broader financial basis for public support of the arts, cultural institutions and cultural services was confirmed by legislation in the 1960s and 1970s. The system of artists’ grants traces its legislative basis to the late 1960s and state support for municipal non-institutional cultural activities was set in legislation at the beginning of the 1980s.
Although some national institutions (especially the National Opera and the National Theatre) maintained their private legal status, the process of “étatisation” of Finnish cultural and art institutions accelerated in the 1970s and continued well into the 1990s. The institutions of higher education in the arts and the National Art Gallery became part of the state budgetary system and the former were granted the status of state universities. In parallel, local museums, theatres and orchestras also came under the budgetary control of the municipalities and, at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, their grants were organised as a subsystem within the new statutory state transfer (subsidy) system to municipalities. In addition to the new Financing Law, this also led to Laws on Museums, Theatres and Orchestras (1992). Only a few professional institutional theatres and orchestras (including the National Theatre and the National Opera) were left to be financed on a contractual discretionary basis.
The above overview suggests that historically the main instruments of Finnish cultural policy have been:
- direct financial support for the arts, artists and artistic creativity, including extensive systems of cultural and arts education and professional training of artists
- extensive public or non-profit ownership and joint financing of cultural and art institutions by the central government and the municipalities, including state ownership and until the end of 2012 licence-based and from 2013 taxation-based financing of the public service broadcasting company (Finnish Broadcasting Company Ltd., YLE);
- modest subsidies to the culture industries, especially to the press and cinema, and;
- active international cultural co-operation, traditionally in the spirit of cultural diplomacy; and, more recently, increasingly in search of success in international trade of cultural goods and services.
The first decade of the 21st century has seen a gradual transformation of Finnish society and Finnish commitment to the basic principles of the welfare state. The changes from the mid-1990s onwards have created, within the legal and administrative frameworks of the European Union, a new system of governance with distinct touches of neo liberal market orientation in the public sector. Although public cultural administration has been rather slow in reacting e.g. to the requirements of new public management, many other factors have shaped the conditions of artistic activities, cultural service systems and creative industries. Such factors are e.g. the enlarging of the European Union, new ways of coupling the arts and artists to the networked information society and creative economy, and the need to enhance the export of arts and cultural goods and services. The effects of these undercurrents have been partly interrupted, partly precipitated by financial crises and economic recessions in 1991-1993 and in 2009-2010.
In the early 2000s, neo-liberalism, in the guise of desetatisation, seems to have entered cultural policy through the backdoor of university reform enacted by all-comprehensive national university legislation. The new 2009 University Act extends the autonomy of universities by giving them an independent legal personality either as public corporations or as foundations operated partially under the old 1930 Foundation Act. The government has also taken definite steps to enforce closer ties than mere networking between universities in order to enhance their research productivity and contribution to the national economy and exports. This policy is reflected in the decision which administratively merged the biggest art university, the Helsinki University of Art and Design with the Helsinki University of Technology and the Helsinki School of Economics. The new super-university, named “the Aalto University”, is financed thorough a foundation and the board of the foundation, consisting of national and international recognised researchers and artists and representatives of Finnish industry, has the final say as to the long term policy orientation of the university. The joint operations at the Aalto University were started on the 1 January 2010. Since the beginning of the 1990s there has been a long on-going process aimed at merging administratively the three other art universities, the Sibelius Academy of Music, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Theatre Academy. The merging of these three art academies into a University of the Arts Helsinki (http://www.uniarts.fi), including students, personnel and funds, took place on 1 January 2013.
Also, the changing civil and economic climate has given rise to a Finnish “foundation-boom”, evident even in the cultural policy domain, especially since and during the government of 2011-2014 (prime minister Jyrki Katainen). It affected the above mentioned national cultural institutions also, as the government of prime minister Katainen launched action into turning the Finnish National Gallery into a foundation (see chapter 2.9). The FNG started operating as a foundation at the beginning of 2014. In addition, the Ministry of Education and Culture’s subordinate Institute for Russia and Eastern Europe, was closed down and its duties were passed on to a newly established Cultura Foundation from January 2013 (see chapter 2.6).
The changes that took place in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium have somewhat decreased the role of the state and municipalities in the governance of culture and as direct financiers of artists, cultural services, voluntary organisations and cultural production. At the same time, the role of the public authorities in providing capital investment for cultural buildings and facilities and for professional education in the arts and culture has become increasingly prominent. In other words, public authorities invest in infrastructure and highly trained and qualified manpower but expect that cultural and art organisations and institutions finance an increasing share of their current costs with their own income or revenues from other sources. EU policies, especially the programmes financed within the context of the Structural Funds, have linked public cultural policies more closely to urban and regional development and social cohesion policies. It should be added that Finland has observed strictly the criteria of the budgetary discipline of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, which, together with the aftermath of the economic recession of 1991-1993, curtailed public spending, including spending on the arts and culture (for the effects of this, see chapter 2.1, chapter 3.1 and chapter 7).
At the beginning of April 2014 the government announced that the budget for the arts and culture (by the Ministry of Education and Culture) will be first reduced by 15 million EUR by the end of 2016 (5 million EUR in 2015 and 10 million EUR in 2016) and then during the two following years 2017 and 2018 by 15 million EUR per year. In addition it was announced that the profits from the National Lottery will decrease by 10 million EUR which means for the cultural sector a further 4.3 million EUR decrease in financing of cultural organisations in 2015. This source of funding has been very important for culture, but also for sports and youth activities
Main features of the current cultural policy model
As indicated in the previous history chapter, the Finnish cultural policy model reflects the overall values of a social welfare state. From the point of view of decision-making and administration the Finnish cultural policy model is – or at least until recent time has been – a model of horizontal and vertical decentralisation and arm’s length implementation. On the level of the central government, a number of expert bodies and agencies advise the Ministry of Education and Culture and also implement agreed upon policies. Some of these bodies have also independent decision making power. The horizontal decentralisation is often corporatist in nature: associations of professional artists and cultural workers play an important role in the formulation and implementation of policies concerning artists, as well as in determining grants and project funding.
Vertical decentralisation revolves around the axis of the central government (the state) and the local self-government (municipalities).The state is financially and administratively responsible for the national art and cultural institutions, but it also promotes wider and more equal access to the arts and culture by providing either statutory or discretionary financing for regional and local cultural institutions. Previously, this work was supported by grants-in-aid that were specifically targeted by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the early 1990s, these grants-in-aid were integrated in the overall system of statutory state transfers to municipalities. These automatic transfers, calculated on the basis of preset cost-compensation and equity criteria, now cover public libraries, institutions of adult education, non-institutional municipal cultural activities, basic arts education, museums, theatres and orchestras.
In the case of vertical decentralisation, the “third sector” also plays an important role. The role of professional cultural and art organisations as lobbyists was already indicated. Yet, the “third sector” has two other roles. Firstly, the voluntary organisations are important in enhancing cultural participation and amateur arts. Secondly, although dependant on public support the majority of cultural and art institutions (especially museums, theatres, but also some orchestras) are operated as non-public organisations (voluntary associations, foundations, non-profit joint stock companies).
The Finnish model has three further unique features, which are, however, at present under pressure to change. The first feature is the reliance on public ownership and public budgets and, especially, on legislation, which has been used to guarantee the stability (statutory status) of public funding for the arts and cultural services. The statutory status implies that the criteria used for funding can only be changed through an Act of legislation passed by Parliament.
The second feature has been the central role in the financing of the arts and culture from special earmarked funds, that is the profits from Veikkaus Ltd., the state owned lotto, football and games pools and sports betting company, which, alongside the arts and culture, are also used to finance sports, youth policies and science. As an aftermath of the economic recession of the early 1990s these funds, originally planned for discretional use only, were used regularly to finance statutory state subsidies e.g. public libraries, theatres, orchestras and museums. Consequently, there was less central government money for new projects and initiatives. The reliance of the central government funding on the profits of Veikkaus also increased and reached the highest level in 2001, about 70% of the funds allocated in the budget of the Ministry of Education and Culture to the arts and cultural services. The new Acts on Lotto, Football and Games Pools and Sports Betting and on the Use of Veikkaus Profits have started to increase the amount of tax-based appropriations and lowered the share of Veikkaus profits in the state financing of the arts and culture. In 2015 this share of the Ministry’s funding of the arts and culture was 51%.
The third unique feature of the Finnish public sector administration has been the lack of autonomous regional level governance – in general or in the arts and culture. On the other hand, the Arts Council system was extended, at the very beginning, to the regional level by creating the system of eleven provincial arts councils. As the central government provincial office administration was reformed, the name of the councils was changed to that of regional arts councils and their number was raised to thirteen. In 2008 a regional arts councils’ unit was established at the Arts Council of Finland in order to better co-ordinate the work of the regional councils with each other and also with the national arts councils. The overall governance of the regional arts councils was removed from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Education and Culture. This system of regional arts councils was preserved, when in 2013 the Arts Council of Finland became the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (see chapter 1.2.2).
Already in the old state subsidy system some of the art and cultural institutions financed jointly by the state and the municipalities received the status of regional institutions (regional historical and art museums, regional theatres) and were granted additional subsidies for their regional functions. Within the present financing system the Ministry of Education and Culture can furthermore designate some institutions as regionally significant and allocate them additional funding. These funding arrangements do not actually make the institutions really regional, with regard to their ownership and management, intellectual resources or programming. On the administrative level, the eighteen regional councils (that were originally associations of adjacent municipalities for physical planning) were reorganised for and invigorated by EU membership and have taken over a variety of regional planning and development functions, some even in the field of culture. Yet they are still associations of municipalities, not independent regional bodies and their role in enhancing cultural development in the regions is still rather marginal.
Cultural policy objectives
According to the Ministry of Education and Culture (www.minedu.fi/en), the objectives of cultural policy in Finland relate to creativity, cultural diversity and equity.
Thus, Finnish cultural policy aims:
- to provide favourable conditions for the work of artists, other creative workers and cultural and art institutions;
- to promote the preservation and development of cultural heritage and cultural environments;
- to enhance equal access to, accessibility of and diverse use of culture;
- to boost production, employment and entrepreneurship in the cultural sector;
- to reinforce the cultural foundation of society.
The affirmation of national identity was originally the main cornerstone of the Finnish cultural policy. Promotion of artistic creativity has been the second prime objective of Finnish cultural policy. This has traditionally been reflected in the endeavour of the state to take care of its artists and to improve their economic position through systems of state arts grants and pensions.
According to the Ministry, cultural policy is a significant factor in the implementation of welfare, regional and innovation policies. Following international examples, the Finnish government has, since early 2000s, started to emphasise creativity and innovation and their contribution to economic growth. The first planning effort in this area was the drafting of a national creativity strategy prepared by three task forces representing a wide spectre of civil servants from different ministries, universities and art schools, artists and representatives of the business sector in 2006. In 2007, the Ministry of Education and Culture started an extensive six year development programme for enhancing the growth and internationalisation of the Finnish creative industries and promoting entrepreneurship within the framework of the EU Structural Fund programmes for the years 2007-2013. During the programme period 2014-2020 cultural projects will be financed by the Sustainable growth and jobs 2014 – 2020 –programme. There is two national development actions are called Creative Skills and Inclusive Skills. The funding for the programmes is 11 million euros per action (for information on the current Social Fund programme, see also chapter 3.5.1 and chapter 7.2).
The shared responsibility of the state and the municipalities in providing, financing and maintaining a regionally comprehensive system of cultural services clearly shows an effort to expand participation in cultural life and access to culture. The adoption of the arm’s length approach in art policies and in the use of expertise and the very fact that the municipalities have the prime role in providing these services are an indication of decentralisation – both horizontal and vertical.
Protection of minorities including the Swedish-speaking Finns, the Sami and the Roma can be seen as an aspiration for promoting cultural diversity. The decisions granting the immigrants and refugees basically the same social and economic rights as Finnish citizens reflect both equality policies and the will to increase cultural diversity. The more abstract principles, promotion of human rights and cultural rights, reflected in the new spirit of the Finnish Constitution and the ratification of all relevant international conventions and agreements can be seen as the moral basis of these more practical legal endeavours.
The above list of objectives correspond well to those used as the test criteria in the Council of Europe’s review programme of national cultural policies. On the other hand, the ideas that the arts and culture should serve economic growth, increase exports and employment and function as a positive factor in regional and local development and social cohesion have become increasingly popular in Finland. The combining of the traditional objectives with these new economically oriented objectives were reflected in the 2015 strategy of the Ministry of Education and Culture where the following strategic “key functions” were listed:
- safeguarding equal access to education and culture;
- promoting intellectual growth and learning;
- enhancing opportunities for sharing and participation;
- providing resources for improving the cultural and economic competitive capacity of the Finnish society;
- opening up new channels in order to diversify the Finnish impact in the international community; and
- improving effectiveness in the cultural sector.
The latest 2020 strategy of the Ministry of Education and Culture focuses even more on the competitive edge of the Finnish economy and culture. The vision is to place Finland among the top countries in the world in intellectual competence, sharing and creativity by 2020. The Ministry must empower itself for this purpose and implement the following four programmes:
1. The power of cultural competence
- increase understanding and promotion of new contents and structures of cultural competences.
2. Competetive edge
- identify factors that shape Finland’s competitive edge;
- using the Ministry’s assets to guide the industrial and occupational transformations; and
- understand and guide education and culture as commercial activities.
3. Prospering regions and cultural and economic environments
- developing new governance and partnership models for enhancing regional vitality and controlling related risks; and
- introducing new service production models developing cultural and economic environments.
4. Sharing and sense of community
- identifying how a new sense of community is bound to shape the Ministry’s activities and especially its governance functions, which pre-suppose strengthening the sense of institutional community;
- enhancing active participation of cultural and linguistic minorities; and
- establishing a project for hindering alienation.
The Ministry of Education and Culture Strategy for Cultural Policy will be updated in 2016, to be extended into year 2025. A draft version of the new strategy was published in autumn 2016 and the final strategy document will be published in 2017. The strategy will reflect on cultural policy from the viewpoint of uncertainty in the development of the economy, political power, in climate issues and human values; the polarisation of social life; increasing immigration and diversity as “the new normal”; and the role of ICT in economic and social development. Culture will be in the focus, but from a multidimensional point of view. See also chapter 2.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities.